In the mid-16th Century (1574), the Spaniards began to use the name “Pisco” to refer to a river, a town and a port. This was one of the main regional trade routes where guano and Spain bound silver were shipped.
The earliest historical reference to the preparation of grape eau-de-vie dates back to the early 17th Century. Lorenzo Huertas, renown Peruvian historian, says: “We have found what might be the oldest reference to the preparation of (grape) eau-de-vie not only in Peru, but in America: a document from 1613 mentioning the manufacturing of this liquor in Ica.” The document mentioned by Huertas is the will of Pedro Manuel the Greek, resident of Ica, whose last will stated that, among his properties, he had a Creole slave and “thirty burnay jars filled with eau-de-vie, and a barrel filled with eau-de-vie, that contained thirty little pitchers of such liquor, plus a large lidded copper cauldron used to extract eau-de-vie, and two pultayas, one with a spout and the other smaller and in better conditions.” This is the oldest information found in Peru about eau-de-vie. However, warns Huertas, although the will is dated 1613, eau-de-vie production instruments were used in earlier years. (Research by Dr. Lorenzo Huertas Vallejos, Producción de Vinos y sus derivados en Ica, Siglos XVI y XVII [Production of wine and its byproducts in Ica, 16th and 17th Centuries], Lima, 1988.)
The "Diario del Perú" (“Peruvian Journal”) of Hugh S. Salvin is also worth mentioning. It refers to Pisco as a city “… built about a mile away from the beach, and laid out like all Peruvian cities: a large main square in the center and converging straight streets (…). This district is known by the manufacturing of a strong liquor named liked the city and distilled from grape in the fields toward the highlands, five or six leagues away.”
Similarly, the “Testimonio del Perú” study (“Peruvian Testimony”, 1838-1842) by Johann Takob Von Tschudi, reads: “… the small city of Pisco, half a league away there is a safe bay that offers good anchorage. Due to the exports of its eau-de-vie that has become quite significant… Grapes have excellent quality, and are juicy and very sweet. The eau-de-vie is distilled from most part of them and, unsurprisingly, it tastes delicious. All of Peru and a large part of Chile purchase this beverage to the Ica valley. The common eau-de-vie is called Pisco eau-de-vie because it is shipped from this port.” (Crónicas y Relaciones que se refieren al origen y virtudes del Pisco. Bebida Tradicional y Patrimonio del Perú. [Chronicles and relationships referring to the origin and virtues of Pisco. Peruvian traditional beverage and heritage] Banco Latino, 1990, First Edition, Lima, pag. 35).
Pisco, the Peruvian grape eau-de-vie, rapidly gained prestige and its export volumes grew significantly, as confirmed by the maritime trade news of the 17th and 18th Centuries and the many testimonies and stories of travelers in the 19th Century, which explain how the favorable conditions of the Ica and Moquegua valleys and the techniques developed by Peruvian craftsmen achieved a top-quality product that is now a symbol of tradition and pride.
As mentioned above, the exports of Peruvian grape eau-de-vie were made by sea to different destinations of the Colony through the port of Pisco. However, one further aspect is that the Peruvian eau-de-vie was stored in the famous earthen jars manufactured since ancient times in the region and which, coincidentally enough, were called “Piskos”. These two fundamental elements explain how the name was permanently branded to the product.
The Peruvian origin of the Pisco appellation has been broadly recognized around the world. For example, the last edition of the Diccionario de la Lengua Española (Dictionary of the Spanish Language) defines pisco as "eau-de-vie originally manufactured in Pisco, a region in Peru.” Likewise, the Encyclopaedia Britannica defines the word pisco as "city, Ica, in the southwest of Peru... known by its brandy made of muscatel grapes."
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